The Last Queen of Madagascar

Who has been using this time to have a long overdue clear out? 

I know I’m not the only one who has found items that “I HAD to buy” and have since discovered them crumpled and shoved in the back of a drawer!

Well, this clear out led to the discovery of Royal African Aristocracy, in Guildford, Surrey.

A nineteenth-century dress and photographs that belonged to Queen Ranavalona III, The Last Queen of Madagascar.

How did it end up in Surrey of all places? I hear you ask, it turns out that the Royal assistant of Ranavalona III was an English Lady called Clare Herbert.

One of her descendants was going through boxes of items in their attic and came across these Royal gems.

Ranavalona III was widowed at 22, it was rumoured that the then Prime Minister was responsible for her husband’s death. (The King)

The Prime Minister was a much older man who had been married to two queens and was after Ranavalona.

In 1895, France invaded and sent Ranavalona, her aunt, and other members of the royal family to exile on the island of Réunion.

They lived in an equivalent of a shack in the woods and all lost weight due to the stress they were under.

The royal family boarded a boat for France, they had hoped for Paris but when they arrived in Marseille they were upset to hear that it wasn’t the plan.

They were en route to Algiers, to which Ranavalona burst into tears and criedWho is certain of tomorrow? Only yesterday I was a queen. Today I am simply an unhappy, broken-hearted woman.”

Algiers turned to be a haven for them, Ranavalona became a local celebrity and had a biscuit wrapper with her portrait.

In 1901, Ranavalona finally got her wish to go to France and was followed everywhere she went and spent a fortune on dresses.

I mean, can you blame them? It was very rare to see Black women in the 19th century decked out in the latest French fashions.

When Ranavalona died in 1917, her aunt Ramisindrazana was given permission to move to the south of France Clare Herbert by her side of course.

Ramisindrazana died in about 1923 and it is her elaborate dark purple velvet dress, probably made in Madagascar, which ended up in the Guildford attic, along with the box of mementos.

Herbert briefly sought work in Nice before returning to the UK, where she lived in Reading. 

This deserves to be made into a film, who would play Ranavalona?! Who would you cast as Herbert?!

#thelastqueenofmadagascar #Ranavalona #Adeptales #stayadept #réunion #algiers #france #guildford #surrey 

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